Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Relativity of Crazy

During extended recoveries from trauma, crisis and illness, survivors are often faced with the difficult, casual accusations of complaining, whining, exaggerating, and flat out lying about pain and symptoms. These accusations can affect the courses of treatments, altering them to only partially address the complaints while overlooking other aspects.

During the stress of this emotional and physical turmoil, it can be additionally debilitating to suppress the pain and contemplate the symptoms based on these accusations. Survivors can feel like they are going crazy, doubt their own feelings, and lose hope they will ever regain any semblance of their life before.

We look at the walls of the asylum pressing in and begin to believe we, not only belong there, but deserve it.

Today, during a routine appointment, while charting the need for an upcoming test, a doctor, new to me, took the time to really listen to the way I was describing my pain, look at the locations of my symptoms, and review my medical records including old x-rays. 

After five years of pain and numbness in my hand and neck, this new doctor, in less than five minutes, had an eureka moment making a new diagnosis which not only made sense, but included all of my symptoms. This not only explained why I had pain, but detailed where I had pain. It revealed why earlier treatments hadn't worked or had only been partially helpful, and set a course for how new treatments will help me.

Just by listening and connecting the dots, in a way no single doctor had done in the last five years, he gave a solid diagnosis which offered the chance for my future to go from one of life-long pain, potentially to a life without the same level of suffering.

He didn't have new information. He hadn't run new tests. He wasn't looking at current scans or x-rays. He merely listened to me and really looked at my medical history.

In the long run, I don't know if today will have been the turning point in my recovery. I only know I have a name for some of my pain today which I didn't have yesterday. I only know now that, on top of everything else, I have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, due to being born with elongated transverse processes which were in turn effected by muscular scar tissue from whiplash and exasperated nerve damage from brain surgery. 

But, knowing has made a difference in my emotional well being. 

I am not going crazy. I have real pain. It is not made up or exaggerated. It is not me seeking attention. I am not whining. I am not a liar. It has a name and it has a course of treatment. 

As survivors, we are the only ones who truly know what we are feeling. We are the only ones who know our pain. We are the only ones living with it and enduring. 

We have to believe in ourselves and listen to our bodies, even when others don't. 

We have to keep trying to find the right help. We have to keep trying to make people listen and understand. We have to reach for new treatments, new medical professionals, new shoulders to lean on, and new hands to help us up when we are down.

We are not crazy. We are surviving.

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